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The Supreme Court will hear arguments why health insurers are entitled to ACA reimbursements. Photo: Aurora Samperio/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Health insurers will get a chance to persuade the Supreme Court that they're entitled to roughly $12 billion in payments under the Affordable Care Act. A lower court ruled against the insurers last year, but the Supreme Court said Monday that it will hear their appeal.

The big picture: The disputed payments involve the ACA's "risk corridors" program, designed to help stabilize the law's insurance markets through their infancy. Insurers say the government still owes them billions, but the Trump administration says Congress has forbidden those payments.

How they work: Risk corridors were intended to give insurers some peace of mind as they entered a new and unpredictable marketplace.

  • The program collected money from insurers that had a better-than-expected early experience in the ACA's exchanges, and used that money for insurers whose early experience was worse than they expected.
  • But the program ended up owing more than it had taken in.
  • The assumption at the time was that HHS would cover those payments out of its budget. But then Congress passed a rider prohibiting HHS from using its funds for the program.

Why it matters: Some insurers that didn't receive the promised payments have already gone bankrupt. And the $12 billion on the line now is, obviously, a huge sum.

  • There are also broader legal issue at stake, such as what companies can expect when they enter into contracts with the federal government and whether Congress can change those terms retroactively.

Where it stands: The court won't hear the case until its next term, which begins in October.

Go deeper

2 hours ago - World

Scoop: Jake Sullivan discussed Saudi-Israel normalization with MBS

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg and Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan raised normalization with Israel during his recent meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, three U.S. and Arab sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: Saudi Arabia would be the biggest regional player to sign onto the "Abraham Accords" peace agreement with Israel, and such a major breakthrough would likely convince other Arab and Muslim countries to follow suit.

Tech's leaky world

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Tech companies are learning what everyone in Washington already knows: Leaks of confidential info are inevitable, and "plumbing" operations to close them rarely work.

Why it matters: Most tech firms talk up the power of transparency but prefer to keep details of their operations secret from competitors and the public. Researchers, regulators and the media are increasingly relying on information provided by dissident employees and whistleblowers to see inside companies' workings.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

First look: Harris wants more union membership in fed workforce

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at a virtual town hall with Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) on Oct. 14. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Vice President Kamala Harris and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh will today announce new guidelines to encourage federal workers to join unions, according to a White House official.

Why it matters: The Biden administration wants to bolster the collective bargaining power of workers across the country – and they are starting at home, with changes in the federal workforce.